Tree-Sitters Arrested in NorCal Highway Project Protest

A seventh person has been arrested in a protest against construction of a highway bypass in Mendocino County.

The seven people two women and five men had been camping in trees to protest construction of the Highway 101 bypass in Willits, a rural community about 140 miles north of San Francisco.

Officials say the protesters were taken into custody beginning Tuesday morning through late Tuesday afternoon by dozens of California Highway Patrol officers who were lifted into the trees on cherry-pickers. The protest group posted the arrests on YouTube (see below).

A spokeswoman for the protesters says among those arrested was 24-year-old Amanda "Warbler'' Senseman, the first protester to take to the trees on Jan. 28.

Armed with batons and bean-bag projectiles, the California Highway Patrol officers brought the nine-week demonstration to an end and cleared the way for crews to cut down the trees blocking construction, the Santa Rosa Press Democrat reported.

Protesters said the tree-sitters and some people on the ground screamed and swore as some officers fired rubber bullets at the group.

"I do know that CHP needed to use some less lethal means because I am aware that one of them resisted the extraction,'' Caltrans spokesman Phil Frisbie told the newspaper. He had no further details.

CHP Officer Steve Krul said the operation was conducted to promote public safety at the site.

"If the tree-sitters that are in the construction site don't want to come down, we have measures to deal with that,'' he said.

Demonstrators took to the trees in protest of a Highway 101 bypass project in Willits, a community of 4,800 people about 140 miles north of San Francisco.

City leaders have favored the bypass. Protesters said construction would damage nearby wildlife areas and wetlands.

Copyright AP - Associated Press
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